October 2016

Monarch Butterfly


Last COSEWIC designation: November 2001
SARA risk category: Special Concern

Description: The adult Monarch is a bright orange butterfly with heavy black veins and a wide black border containing two rows of white spots. The wingspan is about 10 cm. Monarch larvae or caterpillars are striped yellow, black and white; they grow to about 5 cm in length.

Habitat: Monarchs in Canada exist primarily wherever milkweed (Asclepius) and wildflowers (such as Goldenrod, asters, and Purple Loosestrife) exist. This includes abandoned farmland, along roadsides, and other open spaces where these plants grow.

Threats: Environmental conditions and loss of breeding habitat pose threats to all Monarchs. Threats for the western population include real estate development along the Californian coast, which infringes on the wintering sites of the western population.

Great Basin Spadefoot


Last Examination and Change: November 2001 (Uplisted)
Canadian Occurrence: BC

Description: This is a small toad reaching 40 to 64 mm in length from snout to vent. It has short limbs and a blunt snout. Adults are grey-green with brown or reddish tubercles and spots. The species owes its common English name to the presence of a black keratinous spade on the sole of each hind foot. The toads have vertical lens-shaped pupils and a glandular bump between the eyes. The mating call of the males is a loud but low, grating “gwaah” repeated over and over.

Habitat: Great Basin Spadefoot Toads are found in a variety of semi-arid to arid grassland and open woodland habitats, from valley floors up to 800 m or more. Typically they use temporary pools for breeding and development.

Threats: The dry grassland area of southern Interior British Columbia is one of Canada’s most endangered ecosystems. It is under pressure from agriculture and housing development. The latter has an impact on the abundance of underground water reserves which in turn impacts on the availability of suitable breeding ponds. The intensification of road traffic increases toad mortality, especially when numerous toadlets emerge from the water at one time. The presence of cattle at pools may disturb toad breeding, and soil compacted by cattle becomes less suitable for foraging.

Western Toad


Last COSEWIC designation: November 2002
SARA risk category: Special Concern

Description: The Western Toad has dry bumpy skin, horizontal pupils, and a distinctive white or cream-coloured stripe down its back. The toad varies in colour from olive-green to reddish-brown to almost black. Males can be 6 to 11 cm long, while females commonly reach 12.5 cm.

Habitat: The Western Toad will breed in an impressive range of natural and artificial aquatic habitats — from the shallow margins of lakes to roadside ditches. Adult toads can be found in forested areas, wet shrublands, avalanche slopes, and meadows. They appear to favour dense shrub cover, perhaps because it provides protection from desiccation and predators. The habitat requirements of hibernation sites for the Western Toad in Canada are not known.

Threats: The practice of stocking lakes where fish do not occur naturally may be one of the biggest threats to the Western Toad. The fish do not eat this species, but they do carry diseases to which the tadpoles and toads are susceptible. Other threats associated with development and agriculture includes road traffic, pesticides, and contaminants. Predation or competition with introduced species such as bullfrogs and stocked fish are also a concern.

Great Basin Gophersnake (Bullsnake)


Last COSEWIC designation: May 2002
SARA risk category: Threatened

Description: This species of snake (P. catenifer) is relatively large, with a moderately long tail; adults in the northwestern part of the range can reach 1.8 m. On the Great Basin Gophersnake, the dorsal blotches toward the front of the body are connected to each other. The belly is cream-coloured with black or brown spots on the sides of the body. Males and females are not significantly different in size, and the young resemble the adults in colour.

Habitat: Canadian populations of the Great Basin Gophersnake inhabit grasslands, shrub steppes, and open forests. Summers in the Okanagan Valley are hot and dry, and the winters are comparatively mild with little snow. In the United States, studies in Utah revealed that the Great Basin Gophersnake typically uses the abandoned burrows of mammals as nesting sites. These sites usually are on south-facing slopes, with no perennial vegetation.

Threats: Suitable habitat is present in only a very small area in the province, where it is being rapidly destroyed by urbanization and cultivation.

Western Rattlesnake


Last COSEWIC designation: May 2004
SARA risk category: Threatened

Description: One of BC’s largest snakes; adults are from 60 to 150 cm in length. Background colour is brown, tan, olive or grey, overlaid by large dark-brown blotches along the back and smaller blotches along the sides. The under-parts are usually yellowish-white. The end of the tail has a rattle-like structure that gives this snake its name.

Habitat: Restricted to habitats characterized by bluebunch wheatgrass grasslands and open Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine parklands. The warmest and driest portions of the province in summer.

Threats: Many of the warm southern valleys have become heavily settled. Farms, subdivisions, highways, and other developments have destroyed some rattlesnake dens and foraging areas, and many snakes are killed by highway traffic. These treats will become more serious as land development and human populations increase. Due to predation they have a low annual survivorship, combined with a low rate of reproduction means that populations can increase only slowly in size.

Rubber Boa


Last COSEWIC designation: May 2003
SARA risk category: Special Concern

Description: The Rubber Boa, Charina bottae, is a small (75 cm) member of the family Boidae and the only boid in Canada. The Rubber Boa is easily distinguished from other Canadian snake species by its brownish colouration, rubbery appearance (due to its small, smooth scales), and short, blunt tail that resembles a second head.

Habitat: Rubber Boas occupy a wide variety of habitats including riparian, grassland, montane forest and, occasionally, vacant city lots. The major habitat requirements of the Rubber Boa are rocky outcrops and an abundance of coarse woody debris which the snakes use for protective cover and to aid in thermoregulation.

Threats: Where populations do exist in Canada, the population growth rate may be low due to the combination of late maturation and small litter size and, therefore, slow to respond to disturbance. Forestry, agriculture and urban development all reduce the quality and amount of habitat available to the Rubber Boa.

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker, Cabin Lake Viewing Blinds, Deschutes National Forest, Near Fort Rock, Oregon

Last COSEWIC designation: November 2001
SARA risk category: Special Concern

Description: Lewis’s Woodpecker is a medium-sized (26-28 cm) woodpecker with greenish-black head, back, wings, and tail, and a distinctive pinkish-red belly. It has a dark red face patch and prominent silvery gray collar and upper breast.

Habitat: The most common breeding habitats of Lewis’s Woodpecker are open, mature ponderosa pine forests; riparian black cottonwood stands adjacent to open areas; and recently logged or burned coniferous forests with standing snags. Essential habitat features are large, standing dead or dying trees (snags) for nesting cavities, and relatively open areas for feeding. Suitable breeding habitat in Canada is restricted to lower mountain slopes and valley bottoms in southern interior British Columbia.

Threats: Widespread clearing of ponderosa pine forests is likely responsible for much of the species’ decline in this century. Fire suppression in ponderosa pine forests is common practice in the province, and results in the development of dense stands which are entirely unsuitable for Lewis’s Woodpecker. Management of these forests will be the main factor in deciding the future of the species in Canada.

Long Billed Curlew


Last COSEWIC designation: November 2002
SARA risk category: Special Concern

Description: The Long-billed Curlew is the largest shorebird in Canada. It has a very long, slender and downcurved bill. Its upper parts are brownish and its lower parts are pinky-buff. Its long legs are grey.

Habitat: The Long-billed Curlew is usually found in grasslands, where there is bare ground, shade and abundant invertebrate preys. Nests are built in short-grass and mid-grass prairies and in grassy meadows, on flat sites that are located close to wetter areas. Long-billed Curlews will use areas that have been lightly or moderately grazed. During migration and in wintering areas, Long-billed Curlews are usually found along beaches and mudflats, although some are also found in prairie environments during the migration.

Threats: Agriculture is a limiting factor for Long-billed Curlews, since their habitat has been and is being reduced by cultivation. Use of pesticides in the breeding areas may be contributing to the species’ low reproduction, since eggshell-thinning and mortality from lethal residues have been found.

Flammulated Owl


Last COSEWIC designation: November 2001
SARA risk category: Special Concern

Description: This is a small owl with short ear tufts. The Flammulated Owl has grey and red colour phases; the reddish phase is commonest in the south part of the owl’s range (where Ponderosa pine predominates) and the greyish phase, heavily streaked with brown, is more common in the north (where Douglas-fir predominates).

Habitat: In British Columbia, the species is found primarily in the dry Interior Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone, and secondarily in the Ponderosa pine zone. Breeding Flammulated Owls prefer old-growth stands (in B.C., trees > 141 years old), where there are snags containing nesting cavities. The understory is typically comprised of grasses and low shrubs.

Threats: Flammulated Owl breeding habitat in British Columbia is affected primarily by forest and livestock management activities. The owls leave areas where clear-cut logging or other practices have eliminated or reduced the availability of suitable habitat. The Flammulated Owl is potentially vulnerable to aerial spraying with pesticides or other management procedures used to control forest insect pests which the owls eat.

Short Eared Owl


Last COSEWIC designation: April 1994
SARA risk category: Special Concern

Description: The Short-eared Owl is a medium-sized, buffy-white owl with very short ear tufts. The upper parts are broadly but softly streaked. Brown streaks on the abdomen are narrow and more sharply defined. Flight feathers and tail are barred with brown. It has poorly defined blackish areas, which frame the owl’s yellow eyes.

Habitat: The owl prefers extensive stretches of relatively open habitat. It is primarily a bird of marshland and deep grass fields. It likes to hunt and roost in abandoned pastures, fields, hay meadows, grain stubble, airports, young conifer plantations and marshes in the winter. It frequents prairies, grassy plains or tundra in the summer.

Threats: Large-scale destruction of native prairie grasslands has been particularly hard on this species. Natural succession, wetland drainage, urban expansion and increasingly intensive farming have contributed to its decline. The species is exposed to danger from predators and agricultural machinery since it nests on the ground.